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Sebastien Schuller - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

The Enchanting Bittersweet Happiness Of...

February 2007

Happiness is an emotion which may posses a heartfelt melancholy intertwined within the bliss. Powerful music possesses these multi-interpretive and multi-dimensional emotions. The most impressive music weaves sorrow and delight together to create a compelling work of art. Music becomes a magically universal form of art when sincerity lies within the rhythms, lyrics, and melodies. Hailing from France, Sebastien Schuller is a magnificently unique and complicated artist who has this power to create such music. Released on Minty Fresh Records, Sebastien Schuller's debut album, "Happiness" is a glorious work of art drenched in both bittersweet pleasure and beautiful grief. As an artist, Schuller shares some common attributes with the cold wave French group known as Trisomie 21. The music of both Schuller and Trisomie 21 require an open mind and heart for a listener to fully appreciate the work. Underneath Schuller's thick accent and eccentric sound, intensity remains. This underlying power can make the music cross barriers of language, culture, geography, sex, and perhaps time.

As a journalist, I am sent a plethora of music from both illustrious and diminutive record labels. Sometimes, I am very familiar with the music and these familiarities create expectations. When Minty Fresh's delightful publicity department (Beth Martinez) sent me the "Happiness" LP by Sebastien Schuller. I have never heard of him or his music before. These days, an album must have a power to penetrate my wall of contempt made my disappointment of hearing poor music. From the initial moment I played the "Happiness" LP by Sebastien Schuller, I was amazed and delighted. This music snob was introduced to a refreshing new artist. These are the moments when I love being a music journalist.

Schuller had an enigmatic but relatable history. Previously, he released an EP titled "Weeping Willow". He is a classically trained percussionist. Throughout the years, he has become an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and composer. Working mainly from home, he mixes acoustic and electronic instruments to create enchantingly eclectic music. In the United Kingdom, he signed to Catalogue Records (home to artists such as Avia, Sancho, Playground, Alpha, and others). In the United States, he signed to Minty Fresh Records. Momus wrote a delightful song about the Minty Fresh label for his "Stars Forever" LP. The company is now one of the most respected and indie labels in the U.S. Minty Fresh is also home to All India Radio, The Living Blue, Kahimi Karie, The Orange Peels, Liz Phair, Ivy, The Cardigans, Bettie Serveert, and a myriad of other talented artists.

Released on Minty Fresh Records (U.S.) and Catalogue Records (U.K.), "Happiness" by Sebastien Schuller is a psychedelic and introspective maelstrom of melodic emotion. The album displays various influences from Radiohead, Bjork, David Bowie, Serge Gainsbourg, and others exceptional artists. "Tears Coming Home" is a heartbreaking anthem about the pains of returning to one's hometown. "Sleeping Song" is an enchantingly ethereal track that captures some of the mystery of sleep. The more up-tempo track, "Ride Along The Cliff" is a psychedelic masterpiece filled with romance and the poignancy of pleasure. Other excellent tracks include "Weeping Willow" and "Donkey Boy". "Happiness" by Sebastien Schuller is one of the most mature and most fascinating debut albums to be released in quite a long time.

Musically expressed emotion empowers and connects listeners. Every human being feels pain, bitterness, love, hate, fear, and passion. As long as musicians like Sebastien Schuller continue to create emotionally honest work, artists will continue to make music that will connect human beings of any and every kinds. "Happiness" by Sebastien Schuller is an album that found me. If this album does not find you, hunt the album down because even you need a little slice of happiness.

MVRemix: Your debut album, 'Happiness' was just released on Minty Fresh Records / Catalogue Records. Tell us about the LP.

Sebastien Schuller: I've recorded this album in France with the help of my friend Paul Hanford, ex-brother In Sound / Sancho and a few additional friends. A part was recorded in a studio. The other, at home, in my tiny little Parisian flat where I'm able to watch all Paris and a big panoramic sky from my window. My neighbors are friendly. They let me play some piano, sing, and sometimes, jam with some friend late at night. I can say that I've spent a good part of my life at my window, thinking, dreaming, and listening to some music. I've kept a couple of songs during 2 or 3 years before the release of the album. The rest of the songs came the last year, before the recording.

MVRemix: For an album with 'Happiness' as a title, the music does have a somber resonance. Why call the album 'Happiness'?

Sebastien Schuller: Life with all the contradictions and a good balance of sentiment. It is certainly a reflection of my life and some stories of men and women who I have observed. That's all.

MVRemix: Favorite song on the 'Happiness'?

Sebastien Schuller: 'Weeping Willow' or 'Le Dernier Jour', but I like most of them. Maybe less, 'Ride Along The Cliff'. That one, I like it as a song, but I was not sure to keep it for the album. Finally, I think it takes a place in the rhythm of the album.

MVRemix: Which song took you the longest to finish from conception to completion on 'Happiness'? Why?

Sebastien Schuller: 'Tears Coming Home'. I had a chorus for at least one year and I was not able to find a verse. 'Weeping Willow' took time for the final step, but was mostly composed in one night. The lyrics, most of the time, come later.

MVRemix: How would you describe your music?

Sebastien Schuller: Melancholic, happy & sad, pure & precise, and full of contradiction.

MVRemix: For some of the songs on the 'Happiness' album, your voice is distorted by sound effects. What inspired this choice?

Sebastien Schuller: The voice follows the intuition of the songs. Sometimes, it's natural and more present. Sometimes, it's like an additional instrument.

MVRemix: On the 'Happiness' album, it is sometimes difficult to acknowledge which instrument is being played. Was this done on purpose?

Sebastien Schuller: There are a lot of parts on the songs. I like the fact that when you listen to a record many times, you're able to discover some new parts, new melodies that you didn't pay attention to before.

MVRemix: What is your creative process for creating music?

Sebastien Schuller: Live, watch some movie, watch the landscape, talk across the music with the help of my old keyboard, an old acoustic guitar, and a computer.

MVRemix: You are a classically trained percussionist. Where were you trained? How did this training change you and your approach to music?

Sebastien Schuller: I've started percussion when I was 10 years old, in the suburbs. I guess it gave me some rhythmic base and a patience to listen to the orchestra that I was playing with when I was a kid. You can wait sometimes 14 minutes in a classical piece just to give one beat on a triangle.

MVRemix: What is your favorite percussion instrument?

Sebastien Schuller: The cymbalum, but I never try to play it. I would love to have one. It's like if you were playing with some stick on the strings of a piano. A similar instrument was used for the music of a famous TV show with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. It is called "Amicalement Vtre" composed by John Barry.

>> continued...

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    "It is certainly a reflection of my life and some stories of men and women who I have observed. That's all."